North Carolina Republicans conspired to limit early voting to keep African-Americans from the polls

N.C. officials lobbied at least 17 counties to limit voting hours — especially on weekends and evenings

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published November 3, 2016 12:52PM (EDT)

A line of people trying to register in a priority book to take a voter registration test in Selma, Alabama, Feb. 17, 1965.  (AP)
A line of people trying to register in a priority book to take a voter registration test in Selma, Alabama, Feb. 17, 1965. (AP)

A new report has revealed that North Carolina Republicans conspired to limit the operating hours of early voting polling places, in the hopes it would limit minority turnout.

Emails uncovered by Reuters through a public records request revealed that local Republican leaders lobbied at least 17 county election boards to limit the hours that voting sites could stay open — particularly to cut down on weekends and evenings, when Democratic voter turnout tends to be higher.

They also insisted that county election boards open fewer voting sites. State Republican officials claimed they opposed keeping polls open during evenings and weekends because they wanted to conserve county resources.

While North Carolina has added nearly 5,900 voting hours and 78 voting sites since 2012, voter turnout has dropped by 20 percent in those counties that only opened one polling site during the first week of early voting.

In an interview with Reuters, a county elections board chairman named Bill McAnulty described being labeled as a traitor when he agreed in July to open a Sunday voting site for African-American churchgoers, ultimately prompting him to withdraw his initial support.

"I became a villain, quite frankly," McAnulty told Reuters. "I got accused of being a traitor and everything else by the Republican Party."

This isn't the first time that the North Carolina Republican Party has been criticized for voter suppression this election year. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled in July that the state's voter ID laws "target[ed] African Americans with almost surgical precision,” and on Monday the NAACP filed a lawsuit alleging that local elections boards had illegally purged thousands of black voters from registration lists. Because state law allows any registered voter to challenge the legitimacy of another voter's registration, Republicans have reportedly challenged thousands of African-American voters in order to shore up their chances of winning in the state.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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